Photos: Rina Horiuchi
Collaborative Chats held a panel discussion on April 19 about the future of mobility. The event was held at Zimride’s headquarters in San Francisco and included industry representatives, planners, and policy experts:
- Avery Lewis, Head of Product, Getaround
- John Zimmer, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Zimride
- Timothy Papandreou, Deputy Director of Sustainable Streets Planning for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency
- William Baumgardner, Associate Principal, ARUP
Lewis and Zimmer explained some of the behavioral shifts that need to happen to achieve broader usage of these peer-to-peer mobility services. For carsharing, renters need to shift from expecting an impersonal, sterile corporate rental car experience to meeting the vehicle's owner—whose car might be less clean—but in turn having access to a vastly wider range of cars. For ridesharing, drivers’ behavior needs to change so that they start to see the potential dollar signs on the back of their empty seats. For example, a ski trip to Lake Tahoe from San Francisco could net $30 per seat and cover the cost of the driver’s skiing.
At the end, Castor asked the panelists to gaze into their crystal balls. Zimmer and Lewis both saw autonomous cars on the horizon, but likely not in the near future. Connected cars could come sooner, according to Lewis. A connected car would do things like unlock for you, recognize who you are and adjust the seat to fit your preference, and even notice how many seats are unoccupied and make those available in real time on a ridesharing service. Papandreou saw exciting possibilities with greater integration and availability of data, such as linking together information about bicycles, parking, and transit, and new abilities to track locations of people and exactly where vehicles are parked as GPS systems increase their accuracy to one square-meter (which simultaneously raises new privacy concerns).HOPE SF is already doing this in a community in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood which is organically doing peer-to-peer sharing of a few cars. Lewis explained that access to cars in low-income areas is important, but access to insurance is often a bigger issue, and that peer-to-peer carsharing services can offer them insurance that they might not otherwise be able to obtain. As for the developing world (aka the Global South), Zimmer explained that the inspiration for Zimride doesn’t come from his last name but from Zimbabwe, where Zimride's co-founder saw people sharing rides out of necessity because of the high cost of gasoline. In India and other countries, Lewis explained, people have been timesharing vehicles without the help of collaborative consumption companies. In the Philippines, Papandreou cited the development of electric tricycles as more relevant there than following the typical paradigm of a car being a four-wheeled vehicle with four seats. In his opinion, the problem isn’t the developing world but the Western world. Changing consumption is the core issue and a lot of necessary solutions will come from the developing world, not the Western world.
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